Backby Henry Green
Back is the story of Charley Summers, who is back from the war and a POW camp having lost the woman he loved, Rose, to illness before he left and his leg to fighting. In other words, Charley has very little to come back to, only memories, and on top of that he has been deeply traumatized by his experience of war. Rose’s father introduces him to another young woman, Nancy, and Charley becomes convinced that she is in fact Rose and pursues her. Back is at once a Shakespearean comedy of mistaken identities, a voyage into the world of madness, and a celebration of the improbable healing powers of love.
dance to a tune of his own as precise and stylized as a sonata.”
“Green questions what it could mean to come ‘back’ from a war that hasn’t ended in reality or memory. In this quick and engrossing novel, Green reveals that living and loving are more about embracing failures and making frequent recalibrations than striving toward unattainable ideals.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“To describe his scenes as having the visual clarity of the best movie shots does not convey their peculiar quality of hallucination. To say that his plots are hinged on certain fatal situations from myth and fable does not carry over Green’s feeling for our particular fate in modern life, or the compulsive fears and anxieties of his characters for their modern fate, especially for organizations represented by initials.” —Mark Schorer, The New York Times Book Review
“Back is Henry Green’s most extended attempt to plumb the world of the hunted—and haunted.” —Jeremy Treglown
"Writing that shines with wit and good humor." —Time
"The skillful coupling of love talk and office terminology, the dexterous handling of characters who seem at first glance to be picked bone clean but who turn into cream, and the view of a world just a little off center make Back a delightful, wispy and original experience." —Kirkus
Farcical mystery and a heavy dose of pragmatism enliven and ground British writer Green's 1946 off-kilter romance, reissued with an introduction by Deborah Eisenberg.Charley Summers has returned from the war to a changed London of bombed-out buildings and a snarl of organizations with names reduced to inscrutable initials, with too few clothes and a job that puts him "over a stile which is a mite too high for him." Having lost a leg in France and been held in a German prison camp for four years, he is now tormented by reminders of his lost love, Rose, dead of an illness the same week he was taken prisoner. Pursued to agitation by roses on the vine, in shop windows, the word in conversation, passing and direct, in all its meanings, in songs, in calls across the room to other women of the same name, he is led by Rose's father to her near-double and half sister, the war widow Nancy. A ludicrous case of mistaken identity ensues, through which Green extends the theme of doubles in form and content, with an embedded tale paralleling the larger story and a final scene with Rose's son, whom Charley believes may be his own and in whom he has hopefully sought some trace of himself. As the misunderstandings accrue, Charley's paranoia mounts; thinking he has found himself at the center of a cruel conspiracy, his anxieties—but not his troubles—are assuaged by love in the end. Green questions what it could mean to come "back" from a war that hasn't ended in reality or memory, to a life that cannot be normal, no matter what the affected demand to the contrary. Concerned as Green is with syntactic invention and underlying rhythm, he does not quite succeed in capturing here the tidal nature of grief, but he does brilliantly depict the blatant and the insidious traumas of war, and in more straightforward language than that for which he is often remembered. In this quick and engrossing novel, Green reveals that living and loving are more about embracing failures and making frequent recalibrations than striving toward unattainable ideals.
What People are Saying About This
Meet the Author
Henry Green (1905–1973) was the pen name of Henry Vincent Yorke. Born near Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, England, he was educated at Eton and Oxford and went on to become the managing director of his family’s engineering business, writing novels in his spare time. His first novel, Blindness (1926), was written while he was at Oxford. He married in 1929 and had one son, and during the Second World War served in the Auxiliary Fire Service. Between 1926 and 1952 he wrote nine novels, Blindness, Living, Party Going, Caught, Loving, Back, Concluding, Nothing, and Doting, and a memoir, Pack My Bag.
Deborah Eisenberg is the author of four collections of short stories and a play, Pastorale. She is the winner of the 2000 Rea Award for the Short Story, a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Lannan Foundation Fellowship, and five O. Henry Awards. The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg won the 2011 PEN/Faulkner Award and in 2015 she was awarded the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. She lives in New York City.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews